Chris Lamberti: Only One Man Can Save the White Sox

May 26th, 2015

As of this writing the White Sox are four games under .500, last place in their division, and the worst hitting team in baseball.

I’m starting to think this might not be our year.

And the Sox are no fun if they’re not winning. Lovable losers they’re not. On the contrary, when struggling the franchise is a cold fish.

The ballpark sits atop an asphalt wasteland, the parking lots as barren as the mezzanine inside.

When the Sox are losing, things are bad. Like John Travolta Scientology movie bad.

For the past few decades our identity as a team has hinged on being slightly better than the Cubs.

Well that ship has sailed.

Now that the Cubs are a dynasty we need some kind of Sox revival. A Great Awakening.

Because increasingly I feel that the White Sox experience lacks something.

I know we live in an age of sports entertainment, demographic segmentation, and brand positioning. And that baseball is now effectively designed for easier consumption.

But I think the Sox have target-marketed this team straight to hell.

Consider as evidence the eight straight seasons of declining attendance.

If the team moved I’d have an excuse to disown them. But thanks to our friends at the Illinois Sports Facilities Authority, the White Sox are locked in at their taxpayer-funded ballpark until 2030.

But don’t worry, I’ve got an idea.

Barack Obama should buy the White Sox.

barackobamawhitesoxThe presidential pitch…


Yes, the most famous Sox fan in the world should save the team from the clutches of imbeciles. For the fans, for the community, for taxpayers—hell, for all of humanity.

Because Obama is going to have a lot of time on his hands soon.

And American ex-Presidents always have some sort of humanitarian scheme to buy back their souls after four to eight years in office. Usually in some hurricane-stricken or war-torn foreign country.

But Obama need not look further for abjection and blight than his (sort of) native south side of Chicago.

He can start his campaign to end poverty on the South Side by putting together an ownership group to purchase the White Sox and then turn the ballpark into a public works project.

If anyone has the means and cachet to pull this off it’s Obama.

This is not a partisan thing mind you. I didn’t even vote for Obama (I still have my “Let Nader Debate!” t-shirt).

And indeed, for Obama to do this right he’s going to have to be the socialist that many socialists hoped he’d be as President but wasn’t, and that the Tea Party said he was all along.


Maybe Angela can talk Dirk into joining the Bulls…


He’ll have to take all of that White Sox public money and put it to work for the community.

Pay for some WPA-style murals painted by local artists along the concourse. Mosaics are nice too.

Get rid of the multinational food-service corporation and get some ma and pop operators in there, cookin up ethnic and regional delights.

Bulldoze the parking lots. Allow for the commercial and residential development that previous White Sox ownership wouldn’t permit.

Have a progressive ticket plan where fans pay a percentage of their income rather than set prices. And public school students get in free for Sunday day games.

Make the ballpark staffed and open to the public year round.

In short, make the local community stakeholders in the White Sox again.

Rahm Emanuel won’t like it. But if he starts bellyaching Obama can banish him to be mayor of some other city, like Decatur.

And think of the tourism dollars Obama Park (the ballpark would be renamed of course) would generate.

It’d beat the crap out of the presidential lapel pin collection at the Obama Library, I’ll tell you that.

Obama would throw out the first pitch once a week. And he’d get a slew of other political celebrities in on the act.

The Dalai Lama sings Take Me Out to the Ballgame.

Angela Merkel guesses the attendance.

Joe Biden wins a footrace wearing an oversized Italian Sausage costume.

The possibilities are endless!

Anyway, it’s an idea.

Because like I said, I’m starting to think this might not be the White Sox year.


Editor’s Note: Chris‘ last post for The Third City was Baseball Update


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Grabowski: The Fermi Method

May 24th, 2015

I recently ran into an old engineering professor from graduate school, who said he was teaching a course to liberal arts majors about energy production and usage.

“Do you want to give a guest lecture on the basics of nuclear power?” he asked.

I told him I wasn’t very familiar with the subject, but instead offered to talk about common sense methods of reducing automobile fuel consumption, something that has been on my mind for years.

In his class I presented three ideas, and used the Fermi Method (something I learned from him in my Statistical Thermodynamics course in the late 90s) to quantify the fuel savings for each.

One: Reduce unnecessary engine idling.

An idling car engine burns 0.15 gal per hour.

Reducing the amount of time you idle before driving away by 30 seconds per trip (from say 35 seconds to 5 seconds) would save 2.3 gallons per year per person.

Belt up and map your route before you turn the car on.

Two: Don’t spill when you fill.

If you quickly remove the pump nozzle from the gas tank inlet, at least 15 drops are wasted.

Being conscientious would save 0.01 gallons per year per person.

Three: Park far away from your destination.

I started doing this when I had a job in the suburbs with a large parking lot where my colleagues would use the spots nearest to the building entrance (and furthest from the street).

albert-einstein2Professor Grabowski, explains the universe…


By parking at the first spot when entering the lot, I calculated I would save ¼ mile of round trip driving each day, equivalent to 50 miles less driving and 50 more miles of walking per year.

This saved 2.6 gallons of gas per year, and would be much more factoring in trips for grocery and other shopping.

In general, by making simple modifications to driving behavior, one person can reduce gas consumption by 5 gallons of gas per year, valued at $10-15.  

This may not seem like much, but if you consider there are 190 Million Americans with driver’s licenses, the numbers are more impressive:

Reduced idling: saves 433 Million gallons of gas / year

Don’t spill when you fill: saves 2 Million gallons of gas / year

Park far away: saves 493 Million galls of gas / year

Totaling close to 1 Billion gallons, valued at $2 – 3 Billion.

If only 10% of the U.S. driving population made behavioral changes, it would still save 100 Million gallons of gas, enough to fill 11,000 tanker trucks. And free up enough philanthropy money to do a hell of a lot of good.

Don’t even get me started on water, where senseless waste is easily 100 Million gallons per day.


Editor’s Note: Grabowski‘s last post for The Third City was Lawrence Avenue. This is actually the second in a series he’s writing on the practical application of statistical thermodynamics to everyday life.




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Jim Siergey: Talkin’ Chicago

May 17th, 2015

I’ve stumbled into a Studs Terkel/Nelson Algren persona today.

I’m bitin’ the h’s off of my th’s, comin’ down hard on my d’s and, as you can see, the g’s from my –ings have ceased to exist. (Perhaps it’s a Bruce Rauner persona I’ve fallen into.  Lemme check my pockets. Nope, they’re empty.  It’s a Terkel/Algren persona.)

I got a lotta shoulder squinchin’ and corners of the mouth twitchin’ goin’ on too.  Yep, I got the whole t’ing down.



All kindsa south side lingo that can only be unnerstood by natives is comin’ outta my meat hole.

I’m even drinkin’ a cup of re-heated coffee.  Black, natch.  I’m a tough guy, see?  A’course, this pumpkin-walnut-craisin muffin that I’m eatin’ kinda spoils the whole mystique but even us tough guys gotta soft spot for sweets, y’know?

All of this came about because I said something to myself that came out in a Studs voice.  I don’t even remember what it was.

It’s easy for me to fall back into that lingo since I was raised on the sout’west side in a burg called Cicero.  Everybody there talked like Studs.   By the way, for those who may still be puzzled, “Jeetyet?” is the Chicaga vernacular for “Did you eat yet?” and “Squatneat” is “Let’s go out and eat.”


Happy belated birthday, Studs!


A lot of sliding and slurring is necessary to speak the lingo from where I growed up.

My father grew up on the south side, around 47 th and Kedvale.  For the life of him, he could not pronounce the ‘th’ sound.  “I hurt my t’umb tryin’ t’catch duh t’ing dat guy t’rew from over by dare.” is a compacted example of his speech pattern.  Yet, he pronounced ‘aunt’ as ‘awnt’ and Devon (Avenue) as ‘Devawn’.

Go figger.

Of course, having resided on the posh north side of Chicago, lo these many years, my childhood pronunciation has changed.  Gone are the flat a’s, hard d’s, absent th’s and the rest of that nasal patois. Me talk gooder now.

When I am in different cities and parts of the country, I have actually had people tell me that I do not sound like I’m from Chicago.  Of course, out-of-towners expect us all to talk like the ”Da Bearssss Guys” from Saturday Night Live so I guess it ain’t sayin’ much.

As cultured as I perceive my enunciation has become, there are certain words, like my father with his th’s, that I just cannot pronounce any other way than flat and nasally.

I don’t worry about it, though.  I just do as Studs always recommended…

“Take it easy but take it.”


Editor’s Note: Jim’s last post for The Third City was Hat on Bed

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Matt Farmer: Guitar Lawyer

May 17th, 2015

I’ve had the privilege over the years of visiting many classrooms to speak with students around the city. Whether I’m talking to grade-school kids or graduate students, I always look forward to the challenge, and I do my best to make sure the students get something out of it.

When I left my house Thursday morning to meet a buddy downtown for a casual lunch, I had no idea I’d find myself later that afternoon addressing students in a classroom at Northwestern University School of Law.

I certainly wasn’t dressed for success, sporting blue jeans, a red and black lumberjack flannel shirt, and a grey hooded sweatshirt. I did, however, smartly accessorize that look with both the heavy-duty, black plastic knee brace I’ve been wearing since February (when my kneecap was surgically reattached to my shinbone) and the acoustic guitar in a black nylon travel case that I’d slung over my right shoulder.

All in all, I looked, on that particular day, like the kind of guy who might get tossed out of a law school for trespassing.

My plan was to grab a sandwich with my friend and then wander over to the Magnificent Mile to spend part of a beautiful spring afternoon busking on a North Michigan Avenue street corner.

I’ve always found it a blast to work as a street musician. You plant your musical flag on a city sidewalk and let the chips fall where they may.

Twenty-three years ago, when I was still in law school, I spent a summer working for a large firm that specialized in trial work. The woman in charge of hiring once introduced me to several of her partners by saying, “I knew we needed to hire Matt after he told me that he played music in the subways. If you know how to work that crowd, you’re well on your way to becoming a good trial lawyer.”

She understood. You need to be comfortable engaging absolute strangers who may not look like you, live like you, or view the world like you.

In any event, after lunch I decided to plant my musical flag near the corner of Michigan and Erie, near the Salvatore Ferragamo boutique. Forty-five minutes into my set, while playing Rodney Crowell’s Leaving Louisiana in the Broad Daylight, I noticed three guys sizing me up from about ten feet away. They looked harmless. One was even nodding his head in time to the music.


Matt’s the only lawyer in town who can sing the two Bobbys–Womack and…


They kept their distance until I finished my next song, Johnny Cash’s Get Rhythm, at which point they approached me.

The group’s spokesman introduced himself as Sergei. He had a thick Russian accent, but spoke English fluently. He told me he enjoyed my singing and playing and wondered whether I would be interested in performing at a nearby event in an hour.

We talked for a few minutes and I learned that the event in question was at Northwestern’s law school, where Sergei and his friends were students. He told me that as part of a year-end assignment, he was supposed to venture out into the city and negotiate a deal to bring someone  — a bartender, an alderman, a circus clown — to the school to speak to, or perform for, his class.

Sergei never talked down to me. He was a gentleman. He also had no idea that I was a trial lawyer, albeit a currently unemployed one. Sergei and I hammered out our little deal in about two minutes. In exchange for a nominal sum, I’d hobble over to his school in an hour to perform a couple of tunes for his classmates. Sergei didn’t realize that I was heading to his law school not for the pittance we’d just “negotiated,” but for a chance to talk briefly to some soon-to-be lawyers.

I then spent another 45 minutes regaling the Michigan Avenue crowd with three-minute ditties about broken hearts, fast cars, and life in prison.

Once I got to the law school, Sergei helped me with my gear and asked me to wait outside the classroom for a few minutes until it was time for me to play.

When it came time for him to bring me in, he introduced me to his roughly three dozen classmates with gracious words. Before strumming my first chord, I asked the students how many of them wanted to try cases. A few hands went up.

I then played a song.

After that, I believe I surprised the class — though perhaps not the teacher, whom I actually knew — by stepping out of my role as a limping, middle-aged street musician.




I told them that I began with a question about trying cases because young lawyers need to know that it’s important not to lock yourself into preconceived notions about people when you pick a jury. The same rule applies when you’re sitting across the table from a relative stranger during a negotiation.

I explained that when Sergei negotiated his deal with me, he had no idea that I was an attorney, much less one who had negotiated (on the defense side) many multi-million dollar settlements.

And why should he have known that? I certainly didn’t expect him to notice during our brief exchange on Michigan Avenue that the lanyard I was wearing — the one that holds my City of Chicago street musician license — was a National Institute of Trial Advocacy faculty lanyard.

I then told the class that I left my job in late January, immediately blew out my knee, and was now on the mend and back in the job market.

I spoke for a few more minutes, but my main point to the students was simple. When you get out into the legal world, treat people with decency, just as Sergei did. And remember to keep an open mind in your dealings with others. Things aren’t always what they seem.

I then played one more song before heading home to put ice on my left knee.


Editor’s Note: Matt‘s last post for The Third City was The Unemployment Diaries. When not busking on North Michigan Avenue, he’s generally busking just outside the Potbelly’s in Lincoln Square.

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Jim Siergey: Hat On Bed

May 11th, 2015

I was recently staying at a friend’s house out in California. We went on a little hike. It was a gusty, sunny day so I was wearing a ball cap. When we returned to his home, I entered the guest room where I was staying to shed my jacket and headgear.

When I exited the room, I said to Dan, “I almost tossed my hat onto the bed but I stopped myself in time.”

He looked at me quizzically.

“You know.” I explained, “A hat on the bed is supposed to be bad luck.”

“I never heard of that.”

“Well, that’s according to all the movies I’ve seen from the ‘30s and ‘40s.”

This is true. You never see anyone in an old movie place his hat on a bed unless it’s a portend of something bad that’s going to happen.

A week or so later, back home, I sat down and flicked on the teevee set. Some western was on. It was in color so I guess it was from the ‘50s. A guy was sitting on a chair playing solitaire on his bedspread. Another feller came in, took off his hat and tossed it onto the bed as he began his line of dialogue. The solitaire player quickly picked up the hat and angrily flung it behind him where it landed clumsily upon a bureau.

See? Even in the old west, chapeaus on the chenille were frowned upon.


Pablo never put his hat on a bed…


So I decided to do some computorial research about the superstition of hats on beds. Here is what I found.

In the old days when people did not wash as much as they now do (some of us anyway), head lice was a problem. People feared that lice would leap from hat to bed to pillow and Bob’s-your-uncle, you’ve got a head scratcher of a problem.

Another concept was that evil spirits resided in the hair. When one tossed his hat on the bed, the nasty things were released and all hell could break loose.

Yet another explanation poses that a hat on a bed evokes the image of a crown on a coffin and it attracts death to a home.

So, there you go, hat-wearers of America, think twice before you leave your lid on a mattress. All kinds of bad things could happen but the most likely occurrence would be that your sombrero gets sat upon.

Chapeau bas!


Editor’s Note: Jim‘s last post for The Third City was Word Foreplay

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Jim Siergey: Word Foreplay

May 8th, 2015

“What’s your sign?”

“Haven’t we met somewhere before?”

“Did it hurt when you fell down from Heaven?”

“Your place or mine?”

“If I said you had a beautiful body, would you hold it against me?”

Stale come-ons like the above are all sound, producing no fury and signifying nothing. If a man can’t exert some extra effort in engaging a woman’s interest, what does that portend, in her mind, about his love-making prowess?

Such playboy Olympians as Casanova, Don Juan and Erroll “In Like” Flynn didn’t just rely on their looks while romancing women, they employed their talented tongues as well — and I mean the usage of lingo not lingua so, please, rein in your Michael Douglas jokes.

Besides Casanova and company, there were other lesser-known Lotharios, who today are remembered more for their words but in their time used those same words as successful forms of foreplay.

By all accounts, Confucius was the BMOC (Big Man of China) in his day. Never at a loss for an enticing utterance, his collection of China Dolls was considered one of the seven wonders of the sybaritic world.

As we read his sayings on paper, they appear to be philosophical statements of justice and sincerity — ”words to live by”.   But, it’s all in the delivery, guys.   If you do it correctly they become words to love by.


Errol Flynn knew what to say…


Here’s a sure fire winner from Confucius’ little black book: “It does not matter how slowly you go as long as you never stop.”  Smooth as silk.

Another big ladies’ man in his day was Peter Mark Roget. Yep, the guy behind Roget’s Thesaurus.   Such a lame line as “Your eyes are like limpid pools” never left the lips of this linguistic satyr. Clever and creative adjectives dripped like honey from his prolific portal and the fairer sex lapped it up like little Pooh bears in heat.

When it came to sexual conquest, Mr. Roget was never left unsatisfied, disappointed, crestfallen or woebegone.

Continuing in this vein of verbal seduction, one would think that another great Romeo would be John Bartlett, the man who amassed thousands of quotations and published them in a compendium humbly entitled Bartletts quotations.  But one would be wrong.

In his defense, he had a pithy comeback for every rebuke but his constant quoting and pedantic referencing would quickly grow tiresome and he would often leave drinking establishments wearing the drinks of choice of various young ladies.

“A word to the wise—don’t be too wise with your words.”  Benjamin Franklin may have said that but I’d have to check my Bartlett’s.

And, by the way, Ol’ Ben also knew how to break both the ice and the maidenheads…”early to bed and early to rise…”

So, fellers, if you want to bag you some bitches…er, I mean, engender some latent arousal within a particular lady of your liking, some enticing enunciation and clever repartee is the way to begin the Beguine.

Like the Tasmanian devil himself, Erroll Flynn, you’ll end up shearing more wool than an Australian sheepherder.

I’m just sayin’…


Editor’s Note: Jim‘s last post for The Third City was Way Out West…

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Chris Lamberti: Baseball Update from an Alternate Reality

May 3rd, 2015

Quick, which makes you feel more like you’re living in an alternative universe?

The Cubs are looking good and could be perennial contenders or there’s been rioting, looting, and burning (and a lot of peaceful protest) in the city of Baltimore where the White Sox played last week?

Considering a.) Decades of racism, classism, militarism, neoliberalism, cronyism, corporate welfarism, war on drugsism, and lack of socialism that have really pissed off a lot of people and b.) An unmitigated 106 year voodoo baseball hex—it’s the North Siders that have me wondering if I’m suddenly in the Matrix after swallowing the Cubbie blue pill.

The talk of the early part of the season has been Kris Bryant, who the Cubs held back from the major leagues so that he’d have an advantage over other kids in his class. As a result, Bryant is light years ahead of his classmates in long division, trading up items in his lunch box, and spraying the ball all over the park with power.

Bryant is part of a Cubs core that is looking every bit as good as advertised. I wonder if Cubs fans will remember their friends after they’ve won back to back to back championships. You know, those of us who helped them get through the lean century.


Typical empty seats at Sox park…


The White Sox meanwhile, stink. They sputtered out of the gate and were sort of turning it around when they had a spell of games cancelled. And it’s hard to get into a groove when you’re playing two games in five days. This isn’t hockey people!

Two of those cancellations were due to the riots against the aforementioned -isms in Baltimore. The third game of that set was played in an empty Oriole Park at one o’clock in the afternoon. This of course made the White Sox very self-conscious.

Many don’t know this but Sox players are sensitive to the perception that they don’t draw fans at US Cellular Field.

They try to tell people that it’s all relative. That they don’t draw as many fans as the Cubs do but they don’t play in an upper-class neighborhood. To keep in mind that the White Sox draw many more than the Bulls, Blackhawks, and Bears. And that it doesn’t matter anyway how many fans they draw because the stadium is bought and paid for by the people of Chicago and the state of Illinois until the year 2030!

But it’s a nuanced argument. And White Sox players are aware that most sports fans lack nuance.

And so idiots with Twitter muscles took to social media on the day of the game.

Like @PaleHoseHater who tweeted “Hey, playing on the road in an empty stadium is an advantage for the #WhiteSox, it’s like a home game!”

I tried to defend the honor of my team using my Twitter handle @3rdCityBeanball.

“Hey @PaleHoseHater you’re a butthead!”

As a sports fan, I, too, lack nuance.

But the damage was done and the White Sox were sad. They proceeded to get pounded by the Orioles 8-2.

Actually, most of that is made up. Sox players don’t care about attendance. And I don’t Twitter fight. As an unknown blogger I’m way above it.

But I do stoop to it from time to time in my alternative universe. Where the world is free from evil –isms and the Sox are 3 games up on the division.


Editor’s Note: Chris‘ last post for The Third City was The Editor Always Rings Twice…

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